Guns Don’t Kill People!

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association insists that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” (1)

Every time there is a new mass killing in the United States, LaPierre and the NRA go into overtime defending the right of almost anyone to own almost any type of weapon and to preach their gospel that the gun is never responsible and curtailment of anyone’s right to acquire that gun is almost never permissible.

He says the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution supports his view without reservation.

In the wake of the Las Vegas mass killings (as I write  a record number), let’s talk about that.

“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Yes, human beings kill other human beings. We strangle each other, we use a hammer, a knife, poison, a gun and you name it. Our ability to think up  deadly ways to kill another human appears to be unlimited. But mostly we use guns.

It was a gun that killed all those people in Las Vegas. Bullets from a gun.

True, except in rare circumstances, it does require a human to pull the trigger.  Otherwise, the gun just sits there as benign as a tooth brush.

But wait, let’s consider the tooth brush.

I mean, let’s say I get so angry with you that I want to kill you or something snaps in my brain and I want to kill you . If all I have in my hand is a tooth brush and I point it at you and pull backward on the bristle, you will walk away without a scratch.

But if  I have a loaded gun and pull the trigger, you may drop dead instantly.  I was the “agent” that put the gun in play but it was the gun that killed you.

LaPierre and I agree that to the extent we can identify potential human “killers” (those mentally ill for instance)  steps should be taken to prevent them from pulling a trigger.

But what about others who can’t readily be so identified?

Shouldn’t we take reasonable steps to control use of the second half of the deadly equation – the gun itself?

For instance, let’s toughen the requirements for background checks on gun buyers.

Polling released by the liberal Center for American Progress found that 83 percent of gun owners nationally support criminal background checks on all sales of firearms, while only 14 percent of gun owners oppose them. There is strong bipartisan agreement on the issue, with 90 percent of Democrat and 81 percent of Republican gun owners in support of background checks. Additionally, 72 percent of NRA members support them.

But LaPierre who has given only grudgingly support for background checks said two years ago that it is an “absolute fallacy” that tougher “checks” are needed.

And as far as any restrictions on the type of gun itself, why LaPierre is unequivocally opposed to any meaningful restriction on their sale. Not on so-called “cop killer” bullets, not on a tougher restriction on the sale of “silencers,” not on reinstatement of the lapsed ban on the sale of assault rifles (the kind used in the Vegas and other recent mass killings).

Hunters do  not need such military assault rifles to kill dear or elk or, for that matter, African Lions. Such weapons are made to kill human beings but LaPierre argues that to ban them is a slippery slope toward the banning and confiscation of all firearms.

Nonsense.

But he seems convinced that any move to keep them out of the hands of private citizens is an impermissible infringement on the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Let’s look at that Amendment and what motivated the Founders who wrote the Constitution to believe it important.

The Founders had just come through a bloody, bitter war with the British. They won that war not with a standing army – the Colonists had none to begin with – but with citizen-soldiers who brought their own muskets, augmented with canon and some other types of weapons to form an army.

The Founders thought that repelling future attack from abroad as well as the need to turn back a domestic insurrection might well also require the mobilization of citizen-soldiers who would have to bring their own, personal weapons once again. How, do we know this was the Founder’s motive?

Read the beginning of the 2nd Amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

The founders did not say something like “Citizen needs for hunting or personal security in their houses or on the streets or for recreational or any other purpose…..”

No, they wrote “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State (Itals added) the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

And what did they think was “Arms?”  Muskets, muzzle loaders, percussion cap pistols, in short the weapons with which they were familiar. But today, the word “Arms” applies to machine guns, assault rifles of every kind, hand grenades, rockets, and by extension weapon systems like the “Stinger Missile” system, designed to bring down aircraft. The Atomic Cannon?

Does anyone in their right mind think that the Founders had they known about those weapons  would have written words that would allow any private citizen to buy and possess a Stinger Missile system?

Yes, my friends, people pull the trigger and to the extent in a free society we can find and curtail them from doing so in a harmful way, well and good. But the triggers are on guns and without them, fare fewer people would die.

Last year, 15,079 Americans died from gun violence. We could just accept the deaths.

Or we can take additional steps to curtail the indiscriminate and wanton use of firearms by people who evidence suggests shouldn’t have them and with weapons that are more powerful than necessary for ordinary, peaceful use.

(1) In order to weigh my own motive for writing this article, readers should know that Wayne LaPierre twice urged the management of ABC News to fire me.

He said I was not “unbiased” as a reporter should be when it came to publicly taking sides in the fight over “gun control.” He cited the fact that on two occasions I had acted as Master of Ceremonies for a dinner of the Brady Foundation, an organization which supports gun control.

I was standing five and a half feet away from John Hinckley, Jr., when he shot Ronald Reagan and three other people, one of whom was James Brady, Reagan’s press secretary.

And LaPierre is right. Although I tried to keep by views out of my work as a straight reporter,  I was happy as an individual to show my support for Brady and his Foundation’s objective.

And I make no apology for doing that.

 

 

Leadership 101

Once in awhile if we are lucky, we run across someone who exemplifies the standards of Leadership we all seek.

Someone who says “follow me” and the path taken is forward into the light, into a world of decency, respect for others, freedom from base and cruel conduct.  A leader worth following.

Such a person is Lt. General Jay Silveria, a 1985 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, now the Academy’s Superintendent.

Recently, racial slurs were found written on the doors of five black cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School.

Gneral Silveria stepped forward to deliver a message to the Academy’s student body. It was simple, understandable and powerful.

The message was, if you can’t treat others with decency and respect “you need to get out.”

Here is the link from the Washington Post of the video of General Silveria’s speech. I urge you to watch it.

http:/wapo.st/2xC0gya

I do not know General Silveria. I’ve never met him except through the brief speech he delivered. Watching and listening to him, I feel I know him and would willingly and gladly follow him as a Leader.

Don’t you wish that Donald J Trump was such a leader. Don’t you wish he had delivered such a speech against racism and intolerance rather than tell us there are “good people on both sides?”

And if the President of the United Statwes can’t, won’t deliver such a speech I beseech him to follow General Silveria’s advice and Get Out!

The New Civil War: Part One – Judge Moore vs. James Madison

I’ve contended for years that our Country is engaged in a new Civil War. Not over slavery; for most Americans the issue of slavery is settled and settled correctly.

But other disagreements of who we are as a peoples, as a nation, what we stand for  and what rights of the individual are  paramount over the rights of the State and so forth have divided is into new Blue and Gray camps.

From time to time I want to talk about such issues. Today, the issue is one of Religion in America.

Religion has always played a big part in the lives of most Americans. But, until recently, religious and secular matters have been kept separate.

One  has gone to one’s House of Worship for guidance in matters of  faith in God and a religious code of morals and spiritual life and gone to a civil court in matters of secular law and  matters of agreed on peaceful co-existence hammered out through human trial and error over time, not Religious Gospel..

Today, however, many people are contending that Religion -their Religion – should override, even supplant, civil law and everyone should live according to its commandments.

Enter Judge Roy Moore, once Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Judge, now Alabama’s Republican party nominee for a seat in the United States Senate.

He is most controversial. Why, is summed up in a Washington Post op-ed piece by Stephan Stromberg:

“As the chief of the Supreme Court of Alabama, he rejected federal court orders based on his apparent view that his personal religious convictions superseded the nation’s civil law. Moore’s refusal to distinguish the public interest from his private agenda was a brazen assault on the country’s core institutions, the likes of which even Trump has not matched. Civilized people do not get to decide which court rulings they follow. Moore’s empowerment will encourage zealotry and lawlessness.

Clearly Moore wants his religion – Christianity – not only to guide his personal life but your personal life. Moore believes this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote and ratified the Constitution, the guiding framework of principles under which we are all supposed to live.

Well, if the Founers intention was to make this a “Christian” nation, why didn’t they say so? They wrote the document.

Instead, what they wrote is plain to those who understand and speak the English language. They wrote in the First Amendment to the Constitution as one of the five freedoms guaranteed to us in that Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

James Madison who wrote the 1st  Amendment was a Christian and he could have written “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion except for the Christian religion.  But he didn’t.

Clearly, the intent is to ensure that you can practice your religion and I can practice my religion (and those who choose to practice no religion) can do so free from Government interference or preference (unless, of course, my religion commands me to do something such as cutting off your head in which case the civil law will call it illegal murder and step in to stop me).

Judge Moore doesn’t care about what the 1st Amendment says . He says his God is supreme and he says his God’s teachings must govern us all.

Okay, Judge Moore. Let’s suppose I say my God teaches that firearms are instruments of human misery and destruction and the 2nd Amendment should be disregarded. Okay? You get to decide which parts of the Constitution you’ll live by and I and everyone else gets to decide which parts we’ll live by?

Is that what they taught you in law school Judge Moore?

We can not and must not tell Roy Moore what God he should believe in and whose teachings he should follow. But the rest of us must not allow Roy Moore to force us to follow his God’s teachings.

That’s what the 1st Amendment is all about; that’s what America has been all about and has stood this Country is good stead since our Founding.

We must continue to welcome people who follow any religion of peace and tolerance but anyone who tries to make us all governed by their personal,particular religious creed must be fiercely resisted.

If this is part of our new Civil War – and it is -bring it on!

 

The Coward vs. The Hero

Donald J Trump rages (once again) against John S McCain III as Republican Senator Susan Collins joins Republican Senators McCain and  Rand Paul in announcing she will vote against the latest proposal to Repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

Her vote, a third “No” vote when Republicans can afford to lose only two,  would  seal the doom of the Repeal effort, thus saving millions of financially struggling Americans from being stripped of their Health Insurance.

Is it chivalry that causes Trump to attack McCain rather than Collins, a woman? Oh, no, we know how Trump feels about women, treats them, speaks about them. demeans them and disrespects them.

No, it is because in his heart of hearts, Donald J Trump knows that he was a coward during Vietnam, obtaining the necessary deferments from serving in the military and risking personal danger while John S McCain III, a naval aviator, was a hero being tortured in an enemy prison.

In our heart of hearts we all know who we are. And we strike out at those who, by being better than we, shame us.

But now that it appears the stake has finally been driven through the heart of the heartless effort to deprive millions of health insurance, Trump must rage against someone.

After all, he promised his voters that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act (promised that at least 66 times) and replace it with one that covered all Americans at cheaper cost. A fantasy akin to the promise that in eight years he would totally eliminate the national debt (by increasing spending on the military while reducing taxes?).

Trump had his staff put together some of McCain’s past video statements in support of “Obamacare” repeal and yesterday morning he tweeted:

@realDonaldTrump

A few of the many clips of John McCain talking about Repealing & Replacing O’Care. My oh my has he changed-complete turn from years of talk!

True, McCain has been for Repeal. But he says only  after careful study of a Replacement that does not, like the present “quickie” proposal, throw millions of Americans off their Health Insurance.

Certainly, anyone can change their mind and explain their change. Trump, himself, has changed his past view about Health Care. And he was asked to explain that change during a GOP debate in 2015 by reporter Bret Bair.

 Brier: “Now, 15 years ago, you called yourself a liberal on health care. You were for a single-payer system, a Canadian-style system. Why were you for that then and why aren’t you for it now?

Trump: “First of all, I’d like to just go back to one (a previous question). In July of 2004, I came out strongly against the war with Iraq, because it was going to destabilize the Middle East. And I’m the only one on this stage that knew that and had the vision to say it. And that’s exactly what happened.”

WHAT? That’s the answer to why the change on Health Care?

Oh, well, who knows how Trump might have explained his shift on “single payer” if he had actually answered the question asked?

But then, unlike MCCain, Trump is not a man of fixed principles except one: His own self glorification, his need to “win,” his need to belittle and “beat” anyone who gets in his way.

And so now he lashes out at a man the overwhelming majority of the public calls a hero. A hero dying of brain cancer.

 You would think that if anyone might be upset, even angry about McCain’s decision to vote against the latest GOP Repeal Bill of “Obamacare” it would be the co-authors of the bill, particularly  one of them , Senator Lindsay Graham, who considers McCain his best friend.

But, no, upon hearing that Trump had attacked McCain for his decision to vote against the latest bill,  Graham had this to say last night on CNN:

“John if you’re listening … nobody respects you more than I do. So to any American who’s got a problem with John McCain’s vote, all I can tell you is that John McCain was willing to die for this country, and he can vote any way he wants to, and it doesn’t matter to me in terms of friendship.”

So, we’re back to that.

Donald J Trump vs. John S McCain III.

In this match, Shakespeare  got it right: “A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.”

Go in peace John McCain.

As for Trump, please just go.

Changing History

The Ken Burns/Lynn Novick PBS series on the Vietnam War has set me to thinking about how history changes.

For human beings, it changes mainly because individual humans make decisions that bend the “arc.” We study the decisions of presidents, the discoveries of scientists, the work of artists and humanitarians, the leadership of Generals.

People of merit and substance.

But the American who was the most influential in changing our history in the last part of the Twentieth Century was not a person of merit or talent or even great skill.

A nobody, really.

It was Lee Harvey Oswald.

The only thing of note or importance Oswald ever did was purchase a mail order 6.5x52mm Carcano Model 91/38 infantry rifle and one day in Dallas kill John F. Kennedy. At Least John Wilkes Booth was a well known actor before he assassinated Abraham Lincoln.

Yes, I believe that in killing John F Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald bent the “Arc” of History toward a darkness of spirit and confidence  that cover us still like a shroud.

Had  Kennedy lived there is no way to know for sure how things would now be different but we do know what happened after his death.

The war in Vietnam escalated to the greatest tragedy of our national lifetime since the Civil War. We revisit it nightly on PBS. We feel it daily in the political and societal mores of our nation. Our sense of who we are as a peoples and where we stand in the World is different.

Had Kennedy lived I believe that after he was re-elected in 1964 (which by the time of his death already appeared highly probable) he would have ended American military involvement in Vietnam instead of escalating it.

I believe we would have then been better off as a peoples, better off as a nation and respected leader in the World.

About Vietnam, Kennedy told Walter Cronkite in September 1963:I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it, the people of Viet-Nam, against the Communists.”

That he said in pubic. According to several people close to Kennedy, he told them privately that after he was re-elected and free from any political imperative he would absolutely withdraw. I talked to one of them.

Mike Mansfield, the Senate Democrat leader of the time, who after his Senate career served as the U S Ambassador to Japan, was by the 1990s fully retired. However, now in his own ‘90s, Mansfield was still coming down to his downtown Washington office.

I called him on the phone one day and he took the call.

“Senator,”  I said, “I hear that you were one of the people President Kennedy told that after he was re-elected he intended to withdraw our military forces from South Vietnam. Is that true, did he tell you that?”

“Yep, that’s what he told me,” replied Mansfield.

“Can I come down to your office with cameras and interview you about that,” I asked?”

“Nope,” said Mansfield. Mike always was a man of few words.

But my feeling is not just based on what Mansfield or others said Kennedy told them.  After all, Lyndon Johnson early on in his presidency confided in his friends he wasn’t keen on getting further involved in Vietnam.

In fact, when Johnson was running for election in 1964, he actually said in a public speech: “we are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

Anyone’s mind can change, including Kennedy’s.

However, there is a difference about the two men that makes a big difference in evaluating their similar expressions about withdrawing from Vietnam.

John Kennedy had been taken in – I believe the expression is “rolled “ – by the CIA with the Bay of Pigs plan in 1961. And in the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962, the Pentagon Military brass and most of his own staff and civilian “gray beard” advisors were all for bombing the Soviet missile sites in Cuba and against the last minute  “deal” Kennedy made with Khrushchev which probably prevented World War III from erupting. The Brass was wrong and Kennedy saw that he was right.

By the fall of 1963, Kennedy, tested in difficult circumstances, felt sure of his own judgement and certainly was no longer intimidated by four stars on anyone’s shoulder. Finally, when re-elected, there would be (as he reportedly said) no more personal political consideration to take into account.

On the other hand, Johnson came to the presidency is some awe of the military (particularly the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Maxwell Taylor) and of the Kennedy administration civilian “hawks” whom he had inherited and kept on – McNamara, Bundy and Rusk.

They were for pushing ahead. And with the American pubic still wanting to “fight the dirty ‘commies’ wherever they were found” and looking ahead to another term with the election of 1968, Johnson found himself in a quagmire he didn’t fully understand and couldn’t handle.

That’s the difference. That’s why I believe Kennedy would have done what he told his friends he would do whereas Johnson didn’t do what he had told the public he would.

And all this because the nobody Lee Harvey Oswald made a decision and took rifle and History in hand.

But such “decisions” can cut both ways. Consider what happened in the case of a young man, about Oswald’s age, named Georg Elser.

Georg Elser saw that the leader of his Country was heading toward war and resolved to do something about it.

He successfully installed a bomb beside the podium where the leader was to speak. He set it to explode at 9:20 pm, midway through the time set for the speech. The bomb exploded right on schedule, raining down the roof on the speaker’s podium and killing eight people but not the man Elser was after.

At the last minute the Speaker, Adolf Hitler,  moved his speech up by thirty minutes and when the bomb went off in November of 1939 Hitler had departed the podium eight minutes earlier.

Now, think how the World might have changed, how many millions of people might have been saved, if like Oswald, Elser had succeeded.

Just one nobody and eight minutes could have changed the “arc” of History for the better.

Something to think about.

 

 

 

Sons Of Bitches And Other Freedoms

Donald J Trump is free to call people he doesn’t like or agree with “sons of bitches” and want them fired for what they’ve done. You and I may disagree with him, may think less of him for his insult to others, but he can do it without any penalty or sanction from Government (if his action costs him your vote in the next election, that may be a “penalty” but that’s your call, not Government’s).

The Founding Fathers of our Republic enacted a brilliant Constitution but then worried it hadn’t been specific enough in safe guarding citizens liberties as against Government Control or Penalty so they enacted ten amendments to the Constitution (called the Bill of Rights).

James Madison wrote the First Amendment which protects five freedoms from Government Control or Interference. And Freedom of Speech is one of them.

Sure, there are a few exceptions. In 1969, after decades of court decisions that postulated false premises beginning with Justice Holmes famous dictum (later overturned) that there is no right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre,” the Supreme Court found that even speech advocating violence by members of the Ku Klux Klan is protected under the First Amendment, unless the speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” But there is no exception which will allow Government to punish Donald J Trump because he calls football players who do things he doesn’t like “sons of bitches.”

Madison and his colleagues had in mind protecting the “market place of ideas” that the philosophers John Milton and John Stewart Mill advocated. Like the other free market places which sort through goods and services, casting out those which don’t work and rewarding those that do work, the unfettered ability to raise a new thought is even more important than the ability to market a new soap.

The First Amendment gives us the freedom to express our idea (thought, view, feeling, etc.) whether anyone else likes it or agrees with it. Because – just because – it might be the best idea for the future but if not allowed to be expressed, “who knew?”

In my imagination, I can only suppose the first person in olden times who publicly argued against “drawing and quartering,” the method of executing a thief by strapping his four limbs to four different horses which were then loosed to run in four different directions, thus tearing his body limb from limb, was perhaps himself “drawn and quartered” for such heretical speech against the public order (soft on crime, you know). But that idea of his prevailed because with the passage of time people in the “marketplace” decided such punishment was cruel and was therefore abandoned.

To put it bluntly, and finally simply, The First Amendment was not written to protect popular speech. If we all like what someone says, why the speaker needs no protection to speak – we congratulate that person as thoughtful and right. It is the very speech with which we initially disagree, it is unpopular speech, that needs protection.

And thanks to James Madison and his colleagues, Donald J Trump and the rest of us have it!

But guess what? The First Amendment also protects the right of those people Trump condemned as “sons of bitches” to do what he didn’t like.

They said nothing that could be heard but “Speech” as protected by the First Amendment is not necessarily verbal. What they “said” could be seen.

Madison and the Courts after he wrote understood that “speech” can take other forms to express beliefs. They knew that expression of ideas in non-violent silent ways is just as important, often even more powerful, than verbal speech. Throwing the tea into Boston Harbor told the British what the colonists thought about the “tea tax” in a more effective way that shouting against it in the village square.

When India’s Mahatma Gandhi drew hundreds of thousands to march silently with him against British rule, the British could not stand.

When Martin Luther King, Jr., used his march to Selma (along with his oratory) to move a nation further along the road to racial justice, the police with their clubs and truncheons could not prevail.

When young people (and old people) in the 1960s and ‘70s wore T-shirts with anti-Vietnam war slogans and burned the American flag in protest of what their Country was doing, all the power that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon could muster could not stop the nation from eventually going their way.

And yes, when Athletes bow a knee or raise a fist in the air or otherwise decline to participate in the patriotic gestures of our Country, they are making statements about American discrimination and American justice which will be tested in the “market place” not just by the majority sentiment of the moment. The first real protests against the Vietnam war were met at the time with near-solid opposition by the vast majority of Americans but tested true in the flowing course of history.

So go ahead Donald J Trump, call the people who say and do things in silent protest of our Countries actions unpatriotic “sons of bitches” and go ahead athletes and others with your silent protests against things you see as wrong and want changed. The market place of Ideas will consider it all and History will tell us who was right.

I have no doubt in the case raised by Donald J Trump that once again, history will tag him with the one word he fears most of all – LOSER!

For those who disagree with the First Amendment’s protections, I say you’re welcome to go to some other Country that restricts free speech. The Soviet Union was one such Country and Ronald Reagan, who loved to tell jokes about the Soviets, had one about Free Speech.

He said a Soviet and American were arguing one day about which Country allowed the most free speech. The American said “Why, I can go into the Oval office, pound my fist on the desk and tell President Reagan I don’t like the way he’s running the Country.

“So can I,’’ said the Soviet, “I can do the same thing.’’

“I can go into President Gorbachev’s office in the Kremlin, pound my fist on the desk, and tell him I don’t like the way President Reagan is running his Country.” Telling Gorbachev off about the way he was running his Country was not in the cards.

So, if you think it’s better elsewhere, all I can say is goodbye…

…and good luck.

 

 

Our National Popinjay Strikes Again

One, at least this “one,” can not keep up with Donald J Trump and his “stream of consciousness (unconsciousness)  speeches, harangues, faux pas(s), tweets and babbles.

While you’re still digesting the implications of threatening to destroy, utterly destroy, North Korea and its twenty five million people, he races on quicker than a March Hare or perhaps a Mad Hatter, assaulting the senses and numbing the brain.

Here are just a few of the latest Trumpisms.

Trump went to Alabama, ostensibly to support the candidacy of Senator Luther Strange in next Tuesday’s Republican primary. Strange is opposed by former Judge Roy Moore who was removed twice from his post as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he refused to follow the legal orders of Federal Courts (particularly the Supreme Court of the United States). But never mind, Moore is ahead in the polls.

Trump said he was there to support the candidacy of Luther Strange but that both candidates  in the primary were  good men and he would enthusiastically support Moore if Moore won.  Thanks for coming, Donald.

Actually, Trump was there to support himself.

He delivered a ninety minute stream of consciousness harangue mostly about himself, his greatness his enemies, his grievances, his hatred of the press, his visions of the Wall and other fantasies.  He would jump from topic to topic in mid-sentence, the whole being an incoherent mess. Truly a “pudding with no theme.”

There was a special moment when he jumped on NFL players who have not respected the American flag by kneeling or otherwise not participating in singing the national anthem. Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

The various player “sons of bitches” labeled thus by Trump are firing back, of course. Sort of reminds one of the present invectives hurled to and from Washington and North Korea.

Please take the time to read the “write through” of his appearance in Alabama as written by Washington Post reporter Jenna Johnson. But read while sitting down and if you are so inclined with a stiff drink in your hand (or two Aleves). Here is the link.

http://wapo.st/2wNUDbs?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.43b9207de414

Then there are the latest “tweets” the morning of 9/23. Trump sees the looming, final, defeat of the seven year Republican effort to Repeal and Replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act which has made it possible for millions of low income Americans to obtain health insurance.

And with Senator’s John McCain and Rand Paul voting “no,” opponents need just one more Republican vote and once again, the seven year long Republican rant against and promise to replace the Affordable Care Act will go down to defeat.

Naturally in one of his “tweets” Trump complained once again about McCain. Here, our national popinjay who “deferred” his way out of serving in the military at a time McCain was imprisoned and tortured in North Vietnam has the gall, the chutzpah to hammer McCain. Why, as my late friend and Carter press secretary Jody Powell might say about this “That’s like being called ugly by a frog.”

McCain will certainly not bow to Donald J trump.

And what do your think the two Republican Senators McCain joined to stop the last attempt – Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski – will do this time?

One or both will almost surely vote NO.

Trump used to blame the Democrats when they refused to join in the repeal effort. But recently he has found an easier target to set up for the blame. The Republicans, particularly Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. But that certainly doesn’t bother him. Trump is no Republican, he has his own party – the party of Trump.

Finally, before I end my own “rant,” a further word about nuclear destruction. Those two boys  continue to hurl viscous curses at each other “madman,”  “Dotard,” and threaten each with nuclear destruction. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerously serious.

You don’t need a reminder of the danger from me. But take a moment and listen to an old song by the Sons of the Pioneer they recorded at the dawn of the nuclear age titled “Old Man Atom.”

It truly applies today. Here is that link.

And so long until next time.

 

Trump’s World: Planet of the Apes

Donald J Trump, in his first address to the United Nation’s General Assembly, laid out his vision of the World.

It is the World that the philosopher and social scientist Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) saw where every man wars against every other man, where the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

In suggesting ways to change this, Hobbes laid out an agenda for organizing society that is credited with being the foundation of civilized order today. While not all of his ideas have been accepted, basic ones of Equality, Justice, Co-operation among nations and Governments – as Lincoln put it – “of the people, by the people and for the people” have been accepted.

Today, that is basically the Vision of the United Nation’s Charter which binds member nations to work in  collective International Co-operation in the pursuit of Peace.

That is not  Trump’s Vision.

There are many soothing words in his U N speech that seem to endorse respect for the wishes of other nations, for the importance of co-operation among nations, for an understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of life and thought in this world.

He pledged this: “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch.”

But this invocation of Ronald Reagan’s famous Vision of “A shining city on the hill” is belied by the clear message to the World that some of his soothing words attempted to soften.

Trumps Vision of how to reform and improve this cruel and brutish World is this:

1-The United States will put its own interests First. And if those interests cramp or even harm other nation’s interests, so be it.

Trump said: “Our government’s first duty is to its people. To our citizens. To serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values. As president of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as the leaders of your countries’, will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

Well, yes, every president properly says the safety of Americans is his first duty. But the rest of it says to the World, we will decide what our needs and rights and values are. If we wish to impose a religious test on immigrants, we will do it. If we need to impose trade restrictions that favor us at your expense, we will (try) to do it. And so forth. The era of “Ugly American” is back.

2-Flowing from the first point is the second that the United States will co-operate with other nations but on its own terms; the implication is that “co-operation” is a one way street, not a give and take.

That is the law of the jungle, the “survival of the fittest,” a phrase coined by the philosopher Herbert Spencer and adopted by Charles Darwin in explaining the natural selection in species stemming from gene evolution. In blunt words, Trump is saying we, the richest most powerful nation on earth, will call the tune and good luck to the rest of you at the dance.

Should other nations follow Trump’s advice to also put their own interests First the chances of  successful negotiations among nations would seem to be near impossible.

3. The United States will protect itself from the threat of attack as it sees fit; when and how are not open to International decision, restriction or review.

The threat from North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and its bellicose leader is real and growing but the action to counter it that Donald J Trump promised he is prepared to use if necessary was truly breathtaking.

Trump told the  U N General Assembly:  “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea (Bolding added).

Totally destroy. Are we talking civilians, women, children, the total population? Pray not!

And we don’t know whether he is including pre-emptive action or only after a military attack from the North. But the words of his threat are scary in themselves.

What a mature leader might say is something like “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to use military force to the extent necessary to remove the threat.”

Not Trump.

Measured language reflecting measured thinking is not his style.

And it is “as sure as God made little green apples” that Trump’s over-the-top threat will only get a return over-the-top threat from North Korea and what aside from energizing his political base at home and scaring the rest of the world does he accomplish by using the language of an angry child – nothing good.

Further, Trump was speaking to an assembly of nations that banded together to assure the peace, to use force only authorized by the world community of nations.

Yes, the U N Charter’s famous Article 51 says reasonably: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security….” Nowhere in the Charter does it say nations can attack others first  (a view in the name of self defense advanced a few years ago by former Vice President Cheney).”

But Trump has never endorsed Article 51 of the Charter, and only reluctantly endorsed NATO’s Article 5, because both say that ultimately it will be the U-N or NATO that has the final say on sorting out outcomes when  member states are involved in armed attacks.

Finally, Trump called on the U N to head off the need for him to make good on his threat (he criticized nations that continue to trade with North Korea – are you listening China – and called on them to stop) but if “forced to defend” ourselves or our allies by totally destroying the North, Trump made no mention that he would need authorization from the  U-N or anyone else to do it.

 

4. Notwithstanding denials, the United States now intends to be the “world’s policeman.”

Consider  Trump:

– reiterated his recent vow to “win” in Afghanistan (winning not being defined).

-threatened to declare Iran in non-compliance with the six power nuclear treaty, thus invalidating the treaty endorsed by our European allies. Iran already has responded with words that make it clear that if the treaty is abrogated,  it will then resume its nuclear program.

-declared the situation in Venezuela under dictator Nicolas Maduro “completely unacceptable, and we cannot stand by and watch…We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.”

Military action? Trump didn’t say but the implication of a “red line” having been established for sending in U S troops is there.

There is much more and I invite everyone to read the full text of Trump’s U N speech which is said to have been written for him by Stephen Miller, a long time associate of former White House Strategist Steve Bannon (now returned to run Breitbart).

And who is Miller? I can do no better than to “lift” a portion of his description that appears in Wikipedia:

Stephen Miller (born August 23, 1985) is U.S. President Donald Trump‘s senior advisor for policy. He was previously the communications director for then-Alabama senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He also served as a press secretary to Republican U.S. Representatives Michele Bachmann and John Shadegg.

Miller has acted as Trump’s chief speechwriter and is credited with authoring the president’s “American carnage” inaugural address.[1][2] He has been a key adviser since the early days of Trump’s presidency and was a chief architect of Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from several Middle Eastern countries. Miller rose to national prominence on February 12, 2017, when, during a morning of television appearances defending the travel ban, he appeared to question the power of the judiciary to limit the executive’s role in setting immigration policy…Miller has been criticized on multiple occasions for making false or unsubstantiated claims regarding public policy.”

Donald J Trump read Miller’s speech but that does not necessarily mean he fundamentally agrees with its every point or, for that matter, any of its points. Although the tough, uncompromising talk certainly sounds like him.

As we’ve seen, Trump reverses himself, makes up and changes his mind, speaks loudly or softly – all  depending on what he believes at any given moment enhances his public adulation and benefits his overwhelming need for applause, beginning but not limited to his Base.

He can campaign loudly vowing to deport the DACA children, thrilling his Base, then appear to make a deal with Democrats to legalize their presence in the United States, pleasing the rest of us, then when the Base pushes back in horror at the apparent betrayal, backtracking into, where (?)…well, we don’t know yet.

Trump is controlled by his own selfishness and vanity and while that can play into anybody’s agenda it is dangerous.

But allow me to end this gloomy view of Trump’s speech to the U N on a light note.

Trump began his speech to the U N by boasting of his accomplishments:

He said: “Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8. The stock market is at an all-time high, a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth, the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time, and it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense. Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been.”

Oh, Donald, you are so great and the fact you felt the need to explain that to the United Nations is almost “sweet.”

it sort of reminds one of the day after the deadly march in Charlottesville you were asked whether you intended to visit the city and without bothering to answer the question took the occasion to say:

“I know a lot about Charlottesville. It’s a great place that has been badly hurt over the last couple days. I own one of the largest wineries in the United States. It is in Charlottesville.”

By all means, let’s not forget to buy a bottle of Trump wine.

Makes the thought of total destruction of North Korea go down a little easier!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do We Men Listen When Women Speak? Are You Kidding!

Ruth Marcus, a truly talented op-ed writer for the Washington Post, asks the question “Where Are All the President’s Woman?”

Here’s the link.

http://wapo.st/2fpUu8p?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.bb06a3e2f66c

She cites the statistics and asks: “How can it be, in 2017, that only four of 23 Cabinet-level staff members are women, half the number of the first Obama Cabinet? How can it be, in 2017, that of Trump’s 42 nominees for U.S. attorney positions, only one is female?” 

But  really Marcus’s  is not just a column about Donald J Trump’s neglect of women in his administration (what else is new), it is a column about the way men think of women in general when it comes to equal status as important, thinking  human beings whose views and opinions deserve attention.

In my own experience, two stories stand out.

One is told by Nancy Pelosi which she has often talked about. She says that when she and Barbara Boxer (both Democrats from California) were new in the House of Representatives they found themselves on the same Committee and attended a closed-door meeting of a select few members. They were the only women present and were ignored. The men did all the talking.

Somehow the men got around to the subject of child birth and began talking about their wives’ experiences and their own in attending to the birth of their children. Pelosi says she turned to Boxer and said “they’ll have to bring us in to this, they’ll have to ask us about our experiences in child birth.”

Wrong. The men never though to do that.

The second story is personal and involves good friends so I’ll name no names, although if, perhaps, they read this blog they’ll recognize themselves.

In late 2008, after the presidential election, the wife  gave a dinner for a good friend of hers who was leaving Washington. She and her friend are both dynamic African-American women.

A small group gathered at the family dinner table and as is always the case in Washington, politics, foreign policy, and similar subjects dominated the conversation.  The host, the husband, had served in a high post in government and he began the conversation on a topic of foreign policy importance and a retired four star General gave his view and a newsman of far more credentials that I gave his view and I brought up the end with my view. At which point, the host tabled a second subject and off we men went “mashing it out.”

But when it came my turn, It suddenly struck me that what we men were doing was, well, absurd. Just like the Pelosi/Boxer story all the women at the table were sitting silently.

So I said, “On this subject, I think we want to hear what  the Secretary of State thinks.”

And Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State in the outgoing George W Bush administration and the guest of honor spoke right up and from that moment on  I assure you everyone wanted her to dominate the conversation along with her friend, the hostess.  We men were embarrassed and ashamed.

This experience of mine occurred  many  years ago and I believe our country has made progress in recognizing the rights and equality of women since (still not there but making progress). The fear now, as Ruth Marcus points out, is that Donald J Trump and his merry band of misogynists would take us back to those “good old days” when Bess Truman cleaned up the White House kitchen while Harry wrestled with the decision about dropping the Atomic Bomb.

Guys, even if you’re not on board with the “rightness” of the thing consider that they’re not going to be stopped so you’ll be a lot happier if you get used to it and, as the late Speaker Sam Rayburn used to advise new House member, “go along to get along.”

We will have a woman president. This last election thanks to the Russians, thanks to Comey and thanks to a press that thought the Republicans drum-beat of her Email mistake was the moral equivalence of Donald J Trump’s life time of mistakes, she didn’t make it.

And now she says she’s through with running for office.

Oh, yea?

 

 

 

 

 

What Should We Do About Trump’s Base?

Joe Scarborough, the co-host with Mika Brzezinski of “Morning Joe” on MSNBC has written an op-ed in the Washington Post worth reading. The link is below.

http://wapo.st/2vXfcmn?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.274641df7cf8

Scarborough’s point is that no matter what Donald J Trump does (as in throwing in with the Democrats on legitimizing the presence of DACA children) his Base will not desert him.  Leaders of the Radical Right will condemn him for breaking his fundamental promise to expel all the “illegals,” but even they can not shake his faithful followers from their allegiance to him.

Yes, but why is that? Is thirty percent of the Country so ignorant, so bereft of common sense, so fixed on despicable causes that they don’t see or don’t care that Donald J Trump is a “con man” who will do nothing for them if it interferes with his own interests since  his only allegiance is to himself?

No, I don’t think that’s it.

I think the late social scientist Richard Rorty figured it out in 1998! You may know that in 1998, Rorty wrote in a book that dis-satisfied Americans would someday start “looking around for a strongman to vote for-someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, over paid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots…all the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.”

That’s it.

Much of Trump’s Base is revolting against being put down, ignored and generally seen as inferior beings (I exclude the Nazis and their ilk who are indeed, inferior beings) and they see in this man their Champion. As he once said “I  could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

His Base has a point (Nazis and their ilk excluded).

When I was growing up in the El Paso Southwest more than sixty decades ago  the way we thought of and treated each other was different. I obtained a college degree at a small college of no great fame or importance but a lot of my friends didn’t even go to college. They became tradesmen – plumbers, welders, etc – or worked all their lives as clerks in a store or traveling salesmen and no one that I knew looked down on them, no one tried to make them feel inferior or unworthy.

My father did not have much education. I’ve read love letters he wrote my mother while wooing  her. The spelling and syntax were lacking but not the love. He saved his money, bought farm land in the New Mexico territory, prospered and saw us through the Great Depression of the Thirties. He was highly regarded by everyone in the community.

Today,  it’s different – particularly in the Countries’ big cities and sophisticated circles. My friends from the old days feel it; their children feel it. And, as Rorty pointed out long ago, they resent it.

I have gone through several “stages of grief” since last November – not “acceptance,” never acceptance. At times as I’ve watched the EVI (Egopmaniacal Vulgrian Ignoramus) work his evil will from the Oval office along with his gang of thugs, I have wanted to throw every one of his Base who brought him into the bottom ring of Dante’s Inferno…but, thankfully, I quickly came to my senses.

For the most part, his Base are good people whose grievances grew without the rest of us lucky ones dong much to  help them and in the last few decades when it comes to economic help, why the greedy men and women of Wall Street and even Main Street have “lunched up” at their expense.

Now, we must help them (not the Nazis, I say again). We must work to see that they will have no need to find a “strong man” to vote for.  And we must convince them by our actions that we understand they are worthy and deserve respect.

As Richard Rorty forecast the future in 1998, another man long ago outlined the way we must think about and act toward Trump’s Base. During another difficult and divisive time in our County when like today it seemed we would tear ourselves apart this man pointed the way to reconciliation.

Let us follow his advice: He said “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Abraham Lincoln 1861